The thinking for the Eagles as they moved through the first few weeks of free agency was two-tiered: One, they would try to retain as many of their own players as possible, and they achieved a strong list of core standouts: center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darius Slay, and running back Boston Scott. Two, they would be selective with the resources available and target players interested in one-year options, players looking to bet on themselves and the winning environment the Eagles provide.
That is how it has played out to date. We don't know where, exactly, it's going from here – the NFL Draft is, ahem, huge and looming on April 27 – but the Eagles feel they've had success targeting players who have shown they are worth the investment that, hopefully, results in a positive return. "Lottery tickets," Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman calls them.
"When you're looking at these one-year guys, you want some high-upside guys, guys who have traits in their bodies, guys who we had a liking for at some point in time," Roseman said. "They're young guys who have a lot of upside. I think we like these kind of high-upside-guys, lottery tickets with the understanding that they've got to prove it. They have a chip on their shoulder. They have talent. It hasn't worked out perfectly where they are and if you can hit on some of those guys, it's mutually beneficial."
Who have the Eagles signed? How do they project into the 2023 season? Let's talk a look ...
RB Rashaad Penny
Listed at 220 pounds but able to play with more weight – Penny reported to Seattle Training Camp at 237 pounds last year and wowed the coaching staff, according to reports. He brings something different to the Eagles' running back room. He also brings incredible production – the man has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his career. And, yes, the big question, the only question with Penny is the injury one. Can he stay healthy? If so, it’s easy to see Penny being extremely productive in this offense.
"This is an explosive guy. He's a big back with downhill speed. All you have to do is watch his tape and you see the traits that he has," Roseman said. "One of our superpowers is our offensive line and getting these guys behind our offensive line is a great opportunity for them and a great opportunity for us."
A comparison Roseman made in recent Eagles history is LeGarrette Blount – "downhill, big-play ability, I think LeGarrette had that for us. He had a lot of big runs for us and he was able to get into the open field and he was a problem there for defenses."
The Eagles have a good running back room with Penny, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Trey Sermon, and Kennedy Brooks pushing each other.
CB Greedy Williams
A former second-round draft pick in 2019 by the Browns, Williams has shown glimpses of the enormous talent he displayed at LSU, but he's been set back by injuries and inconsistency and then, in 2022, a change in defensive philosophy in Cleveland.
"Talented guy who has shown some things and is looking to put it all together," Roseman said. "Long body with instincts and we're excited to get him in here and work with him and have him with Slay and James."
Williams is an outside cornerback who knows that nothing is guaranteed here. The Eagles have Slay and Bradberry starting on the outside, with Avonte Maddox in the slot. A bunch of young corners, including Zech McPhearson, Josh Jobe, Josiah Scott, and Mario Goodrich, aim to impress in Training Camp and the preseason. There is going to be competition.
That should be a good thing to bring out the best in Williams.
QB Marcus Mariota
A proven quarterback in this league, Mariota comes in to back up Jalen Hurts, and would seem to be a great fit. Mariota has experience as a starter, he's healthy, he is mobile enough to handle the multiple skills Hurts brings to the table.
"Marcus is an extremely talented guy who has had success in the NFL. He's been a starting quarterback, obviously a high-level player coming out (of Oregon in the 2015 NFL Draft)," Roseman said. "He has tremendous talent as a passer and as an athlete. His leadership capabilities are off the charts. Excited to get him to Philly."
How will the Eagles use Mariota? That remains to be seen, but he has the ability to run the offense at a high, very explosive level in every capacity.
S Justin Evans
Once a second-round draft pick by Tampa Bay, Evans battled back from a torn Achilles tendon injury that robbed him of most of three NFL seasons. He never gave up, he kept fighting, and last year he returned to win a job in New Orleans and get back to his pre-injury level.
He is on the rise, then, having worked past the injury in 2022.
"Talented guy who missed some time with injuries. He came back last year and we had our eye on him. He has athleticism, range, and the ability to play over the slot, the ability to play in the back end, and he's just an interesting guy to us. We always look for guys who overcome adversity, show determination, and who love the game, and, obviously, Justin showed that."
The starters at safety last season for the Eagles – C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps – moved on in free agency. Reed Blankenship played well as a rookie free agent and is hungry for more. He's going to be one of those players who takes a big jump in his second season.
Evans is here to earn playing time, help on special teams, and show the kind of NFL player he can be when fully healthy.
LB Nicholas Morrow
A mainstay in Chicago's defense in 2022, Morrow played 100 percent of the snaps for the Bears and led the team in tackles. He played inside and outside, and he was solid for a defense that struggled. Morrow is fast, physical, and intelligent and with the Eagles losing T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White in free agency, Morrow will have a chance to win a role.
"He is a guy with tremendous character, tremendous intangibles, athleticism," Roseman said. "He started 17 games for Chicago last season and he comes to Philadelphia hungry for an opportunity and we'll throw him into the mix. We lost two guys there, so there is an opportunity for him."
S Terrell Edmunds
The picture at safety is that Edmunds is here with Evans and Blankenship, K'Von Wallace, and Andre Chachere to compete and see how it shakes out.
No guarantees. Edmunds, a former first-round draft pick who started for five seasons in Pittsburgh, has the pedigree to understand the situation and step up with a new opportunity in the league.
"He's got a lot of tools in his body. We talk a lot about the times when you look at these guys and they have green (grades) all across the page in terms of his athletic tools," Roseman said. "It's easy to go back and watch him on tape and see him being put in different situations. He has a unique body size and that is something different than what we have and he gives us different options in the defensive backfield."
DL Kentavius Street
The Eagles will welcome Street into the NovaCare Complex this week to introduce him to their defensive system and they will see how he works into the defensive line rotation. He adds experienced depth and has played the best football of his professional career as the ACL injury suffered in a pre-NFL Draft visit to the New York Giants healed. He played a career-high 518 defensive snaps in the Saints' strong defensive front last season, 46 percent of the defensive plays. At 6-foot-2, 287 pounds, Street wins with his burst and effort. He has played inside and on the edge, and the expectation is that he will give the Eagles quality, high-energy defensive snaps.
The Eagles lost Javon Hargrave and his 11 quarterback sacks in free agency, so that production will have to be replaced. Second-year man Jordan Davis is expected to take a step in his second season. Third-year man Milton Williams played quality football in the tackle rotation last season. Veteran Fletcher Cox is back to continue his great Eagles career. There are some young players – Marlon Tuipulotu, Marvin Wilson, and Noah Elliss – who bear watching as well.